Before me, forty or so brown faces stood, clapping and singing just a few beats slower but with gusto. They are just second-level English students of a number of different religions, gathered from nations all around East Africa and some, even further. The verse was scrawled behind my head in dry-erase. Large smiles spread as our lungs filled; the beat gathered momentum African-style; and my palms stung, pink from clapping.
See, I've been wondering how to tell you about this new year, as we've been back--particularly a new class I've been excited to tell you about. But blogging, to me, has some degree of trepidation. Paging through the Sermon on the Mount, I am intrigued by Jesus' words from one chapter to the next: Let your light shine before others so that they may...give glory to your Father..., then, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing--that warning against doing good things for people to see us, not see God. I know all too well--and still not well enough--the stinking crevices of my own heart, and my love for others to think well of me. And still, I know that I need you to pray, that God is doing something here that I want to tell you, and that you are a part of this in sending us here! The Psalms talk about proclaiming His works of salvation in the assembly.
I'm so energized to tell you what He is doing in Uganda! I have heard statistics that since the conflict in South Sudan has begun, Uganda has been deluged with some 64,000 refugees. Even when we arrived back, I was amazed by the increased number of darker faces, the long, lithe forms of the Sudanese that ambled down the street like so many leggy marionettes. So when I called too late to the YMCA--their term had already begun--I decided to pay a call to the refugee center you may remember from the Passion conference to which eMi sponsored their attendance over a year ago. (Those of you who have taken Worldwide Perspectives will remember how God can use displacement, too, to bring people to Himself.)
Sure enough, the center is bursting at the seams. They have over 500 enrolled in their English classes, career training, and Bible class program. And that's how I got to teach Bible stories twice on Thursdays to men and women that I so look forward to seeing every week. We're going through the Bible story by story, not jumping ahead.
But these students have limited English ability. So I've been pulling out the props (a basket of vegetables and a stuffed [puppy-turned-] sheep of C.'s for last week's story of Cain and Abel), the artwork, and the songs to help convey even a shade of the vibrancy these true stories carry. It is powerful to be able to convey the value of women, particularly to those covered heads in my class; to find out last week that enthusiasm wasn't just replacing comprehension as they related in detail the stories we've heard so far. Their oral/aural cultural abilities fascinate me.
And as much as my shoulders slope when I finally pull in the driveway at the end of the day, my heart soars. It is a devotional experience for me to pore through the Creation story, for example, and search out the clues it tells us about the kind of person God really is. I brought popcorn the first day, to show that God, too, showed people His kindness when He had delicious food ready for them when they were created on that sixth day.
A friend of mine, a former missionary kid from Chad, relayed some of her father's stories from teaching his Bible students the same way: story by story, laying the foundation of God's timeline that pointed to him. When they got to a verse in Isaiah 53, she said, he asked them about who this sinless man could be? It could only be God! they declared! And they threw a spontaneous party that lasted into the evening.
It is challenging to teach the surpassing grief of man's Fall, of the story of Cain and Abel, without much hope other than God's promise in Genesis 3 of someone who will crush the snake's head (even now, I see my sandal stomping in front of them as a visual). But I can't wait till they get to hear the whole story. I would love for you to pray for these wonderful students.
And for now, I will still endanger my life on a plastic chair now and then. It is so worth it.
From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth;
and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.
God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him,
though he is not far from any one of us.